Ukraine says Russian forces killed seven civilians in evacuation convoy

  • The bulk of Russian ground forces outside Kyiv, UK says
  • Ukraine says humanitarian corridors under threat
  • EU to impose new sanctions on Russia

LVIV, Ukraine, March 12 (Reuters) – Ukraine on Saturday accused Russian forces of killing seven civilians in an attack on women and children trying to flee fighting near Kiev, and France said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had shown that he was not ready to make peace. .

As the Russian invasion entered its third week, Ukrainian intelligence said the seven people, including a child, were killed as they fled the village of Peremoha and “the occupiers forced the remains of the column to turn back”. Read more

Ukrainian officials later said the convoy was not traveling along a “green corridor” agreed with Russia when it was hit on Friday, correcting their previous claim that it was on such a designated route.

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Reuters was unable to immediately verify the report and Russia had no immediate comment.

Moscow denies targeting civilians since its February 24 invasion of Ukraine. He accuses Ukraine of unsuccessfully trying to evacuate civilians from surrounded towns, a charge Ukraine and its Western allies strongly deny.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said earlier that Moscow was sending new troops after Ukrainian forces knocked out 31 of the Russian battalion’s battle groups in what he called the biggest Russian military casualties in decades. It was not possible to verify his statements.

He also said around 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed so far and urged the West to get more involved in peace talks. The president suggested that Russian forces would face a fight to the death if they sought to enter the capital.

“If they decide to carpet-bomb (Kiev) and just erase the history of this region … and destroy us all, then they will enter Kiev. If that is their objective, let them enter, but they will have to live alone on this earth,” he said.

Zelenskiy discussed the war with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Emmanuel Macron, and German and French leaders later spoke to Putin by phone and urged him to order an immediate ceasefire.

A Kremlin statement on the 75 Minutes call made no mention of a ceasefire and a French presidential official said: “We have not detected any will on the part of Putin to end the war”.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accused the United States of escalating tensions and said the situation had been complicated by Western arms convoys to Ukraine that Russian forces viewed as “legitimate targets”.

In comments reported by the Tass news agency, Ryabkov made no specific threats, but any attack on such convoys before they reach Ukraine would risk escalating the war.

Responding to Zelenskiy’s call for the West to become more involved in the peace negotiations, a US State Department spokesperson said: “If there are any diplomatic steps we can take that the Ukrainian government considers them useful, we are ready to take them”.

Crisis talks between Moscow and Kyiv are continuing via a video link, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by Russian news agency RIA as saying. He gave no details, but Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kiev would not surrender or accept any ultimatums. Read more

Zelenskiy said later on Saturday that he had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett about the prospects for peace talks. Bennett has met with Putin and previously spoken to Zelenskiy by phone, but diplomatic efforts so far have proven futile.

HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS

Air raid sirens sounded in most Ukrainian cities on Saturday, local media reported.

Russian rocket fire destroyed a Ukrainian air base and hit an ammunition depot near the town of Vasylkiv in the Kyiv region, Interfax Ukraine quoted its mayor as saying.

The exhausted-looking governor of Chernihiv, about 150 km (100 miles) northeast of Kiev, gave a video update in front of the ruins of the city’s Hotel Ukraine.

“There is no such hotel anymore,” said Viacheslav Chaus, wiping tears from his eyes. “But Ukraine itself still exists, and it will prevail.”

The British Ministry of Defense said fighting northwest of the capital was continuing, with the bulk of Russian ground forces 25km (16 miles) from the center of Kiev, which it said Russia could attack in a few days.

Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remained surrounded by heavy Russian shelling, he added.

Russia’s invasion was almost universally condemned around the world, and Moscow imposed harsh Western sanctions.

Russian bombardments have trapped thousands of people in besieged cities and sent 2.5 million Ukrainians to flee to neighboring countries. Zelenskiy said the conflict meant some small Ukrainian towns no longer existed.

The United States said it would deploy up to $200 million in additional small arms, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine, where officials pleaded for increased military aid. Read more

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” which it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its neighbor’s military capabilities and “denazify” the country.

Ukrainian officials had planned to use humanitarian corridors from Mariupol as well as towns and villages in Kyiv, Sumy and other regions on Saturday.

But Russian shelling threatened attempts to evacuate trapped civilians, they said.

Still, around 13,000 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities on Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. It was almost double those who had been out the day before, but much less than the previous two days.

A senior Russian Defense Ministry official said the humanitarian situation in Ukraine continued to deteriorate rapidly and blamed Ukrainian fighters, accusing them of mining neighborhoods and destroying bridges and roads, the agency reported. RIA press.

Russian officials have previously accused Ukrainian forces of bombing their own people and then seeking to blame Moscow, allegations that Kiev and Western countries have dismissed as lies.

Kyiv Region Governor Oleksiy Kuleba said fighting and threats of Russian airstrikes continued Saturday morning even though some evacuations were underway.

The governor of the Donetsk region said constant shelling was making it difficult to get aid to the southern city of Mariupol.

Images taken on Saturday by the private American satellite company Maxar showed fires in the western part of Mariupol and dozens of buildings badly damaged. Read more

“There are reports of looting and violent clashes between civilians over the few basic supplies that remain in the city,” the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

FORMAL BURIALS

People were boiling underground water to drink, using wood for cooking and burying their dead near where they lay, a Médecins Sans Frontières staff member in Mariupol said.

At least 1,582 civilians in Mariupol have been killed as a result of Russian shelling and a 12-day blockade, the city council said on Friday. It was not possible to verify the number of victims.

Efforts to isolate Russia economically have intensified, with the United States imposing new sanctions on senior Kremlin officials and Russian oligarchs on Friday.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday that the EU would suspend privileged trade and economic treatment of Moscow, crack down on its use of crypto-assets and ban the import of steel products from Russia, as well as the export of luxury goods. goods the other way. Read more

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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Philippa Fletcher, Timothy Heritage, Matt Spetalnick; Editing by William Mallard, Frances Kerry, Daniel Wallis and Grant McCool

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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